Orlando Furioso: Carving their names on trees

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872), Orlando Furioso (detail) (1822-27), fresco, Casa Massimo, Rome, Italy. Image by Sailko, via Wikimedia Commons.

Angelica came across the moribund body of Medoro, a young Saracen soldier, in a wood outside the besieged city of Paris. With the help of a passing shepherd, she stopped the bleeding and took the wounded soldier back to stay with the shepherd and his wife in their humble cottage. As Medoro recovered, Angelica developed a burning passion for him; they made love and got married.

They honeymoon for a month in the shepherd’s humble cottage, Angelica’s love proving insatiable. Whenever they come across a suitable tree, they engrave their names in its bark, the two joined with love’s knots.

Bartholomeus Spranger (1546–1611), Angelica and Medoro (c 1600), colour on canvas, 108 x 80 cm, Alte Pinakothek, Maxvorstadt, Germany. Wikimedia Commons.
Jacques Blanchard (1600–1638), Angelica and Medoro (1630), oil on canvas, 121.6 x 175.9 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons.
Sebastiano Ricci (1659–1734), Angelica and Medoro (c 1716), oil on canvas, 87.5 x 110 cm, Muzeul Naţional Brukenthal, Sibiu, Romania. Wikimedia Commons.
Michele Rocca (1671–1752), Angelica and Medoro (c 1720-50), oil on canvas, 49.7 x 37.2 cm, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD. Wikimedia Commons.
Bemberg Fondation Toulouse - Angélique et Médor par Andrea Casali - Inv 1070
Andrea Casali (1705–1784), Angelica and Medoro (date not known), oil on canvas, 45.7 x 36.8 cm, Fondation Bemberg, Toulouse, France. Image by Didier Descouens, via Wikimedia Commons.
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770), Angelica Carving Medoro’s Name on a Tree (1757), fresco, 250 x 160 cm, Villa Valmarana ai Nani, Vicenza, Italy. Wikimedia Commons.
Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872), Orlando Furioso (detail) (1822-27), fresco, Casa Massimo, Rome, Italy. Image by Sailko, via Wikimedia Commons.
Gustave Doré (1832–1883), Angelica and Medoro Write Their Names on Every Surrounding Tree (Canto 19:36) (c 1878), engraving, dimensions and location not known. Wikimedia Commons.

Angelica intends that they move to India, where she will give her kingdom there to Medoro.

She wears on her arm a golden bracelet with jewels, which Orlando had given her as a token of his love. Although she is strongly attached to it, she gives that bracelet to the shepherd and his wife to express her gratitude. The couple then make their farewells, and leave for the Pyrenees Mountains, between France and Spain.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770), Angelica and Medoro Say Goodbye to the Shepherds (1757), fresco, 250 x 250 cm, Villa Valmarana ai Nani, Vicenza, Italy. Wikimedia Commons.

Principal Characters

Angelica, beautiful daughter of the ruler of Cathay, who is loved and pursued by innumerable knights both Christian and not.

Medoro, one of Prince Dardinello’s Moorish soldiers, a ‘pagan’.

The artists

Jacques Blanchard (1600–1638) was an important French painter of the Baroque period who was born and trained in Paris and Rome. His major influences were Titian and Tintoretto. He painted many portraits, as well as religious and narrative works. Sadly he died in Paris at the age of only 38.

Andrea Casali (1705–1784) was an Italian painter who was born in Civitavecchia, a port near Rome. He trained under Sebastiano Conca and Francesco Trevisani, and spent twenty-five years painting in Britain, where he was also an art dealer.

Sebastiano Ricci (1659–1734) was an Italian painter, who was a contemporary of Tiepolo in Venice, and trained in Venice before moving to Bologna. He painted many well known frescoes in Venice, and in Florence where he decorated rooms in the Pitti Palace. He painted commissions in Britain for several years, afterwards working in Paris for two years, which he became rich. He was particularly successful in painting mythological and other narratives.

Michele Rocca (1671–1752) was an Italian painter who was born in Parma, and worked mainly in Rome. He is sometimes confusingly known as Parmigiano the Younger.

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872) was a German painter who trained at the Vienna Academy, from where he went to Rome in 1815 to join the Nazarene movement there, with Johann Friedrich Overbeck and others. He was involved in the campaign to re-introduce traditional fresco painting, and in 1822 was commissioned to paint frescoes depicting Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso in the entrance hall to the Villa Massimo in Rome. He completed these by 1827, when he returned to Munich to paint frescoes for the new palace there showing scenes from the Nibelungenlied. He later turned to Biblical illustrations and designs for stained glass windows.

Bartholomeus Spranger (1546–1611) was a major artist who was born in Antwerp, where he trained initially. He is now known for his paintings, sculpture, and prints. He travelled to Paris and Italy, and later became court painter to the Holy Roman Emperor in Prague, where he enjoyed a personal relationship with Rudolf II. He was a prolific painter of mythological stories, and other narratives.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770) was a major and prolific painter who was born and worked mostly in Venice. He trained in Venice, where he became painter to the Doge. His works are generally luminously chromatic, quite painterly and decorative in approach. He completed several major semi-decorative commissions, including some in Würzburg and Madrid, as well as in the palazzos of Venice. His son Giovanni Domenico was also a well-known painter.


Wikipedia on Ariosto
Wikipedia on Orlando Furioso

Barbara Reynolds (translator) (1975, 1977) Orlando Furioso, parts 1 and 2, Penguin. ISBNs 978 0 140 44311 0, 978 0 140 44310 3. Verse translation with extensive introduction and notes.
Guido Waldman (translator) (1974) Orlando Furioso, Oxford World’s Classics. ISBN 978 0 19 954038 9. Prose translation.